From cattle farming to struggling to survive: One Gaza family's story of displacement
JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:
Now we're going to hear about one family's displacement amid the Israeli offensive in Gaza. That offensive continues intensely, with Israel saying it seeks to destroy Hamas wherever it is. An airstrike yesterday killed at least 21 people, injuring women and children, according to health officials. This was in the south, where thousands of civilians have fled. NPR's Carrie Kahn brings us the story of one man and his family who are struggling to survive in southern Gaza, with reporting from NPR's producer Anas Baba, who is in Gaza.
ANAS BABA, BYLINE: From Rafah City, from Tell es-Sultan neighborhood, it's already 10 a.m.
CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: In the southwest corner of the Gaza Strip, near the border with Egypt, producer Anas Baba says tents are everywhere. One cluster catches his attention - seven families sheltering on a small dirt field behind a gate.
BABA: One of them is Mr. Nidal Al Barrawi, 47 years old, with his family of 10 members. Mr. Nidal is going to start to tell us exactly how was his day in Rafah.
NIDAL AL BARRAWI: (Speaking Arabic).
KAHN: "This is a nightmare I can't wake up from," says Nidal Al Barrawi.
He leans against a tall pile of thin mats and folded blankets inside the cargo van where he and most of his family now sleep. The Israeli military ordered his part of northern Gaza to evacuate a couple months ago. Before that, he lived in a three-story home and enjoyed life as a farmer.
AL BARRAWI: (Through interpreter) My wife used to prepare me coffee, and I then used to go to work. I would feed my cows, then go and take care of the rest of my farm.
KAHN: Al Barrawi says he also grew apricots and avocados. He would nap midday, then spend evenings with friends and relatives.
AL BARRAWI: (Through interpreter) Everything, everything we needed was right by us. Now that is all gone.
KAHN: Much of northern Gaza has been leveled by Israel following Hamas' attack on October 7. Hamas killed around 1,200 people and still hold more than 100 hostages in Gaza. Health officials in Gaza say more than 21,000 Palestinians have been killed, and the U.N. says nearly 2 million are displaced. Al Barrawi's family is among some 100 people, a few in cars. Most are in tents. There is no running water, no toilets. He says he's been sick for weeks. Here by the coast, it's cold.
AL BARRAWI: (Through interpreter) I feel I'm 100 years old. I'm only 47. Back home, people would tell me how I looked only 30. I feel so fragile now.
KAHN: Fragile since he's lost 30 pounds. His wife, too, is getting skinnier.
AL BARRAWI: A year ago, I bought my wife a ring. To get it off, she would have to use soap. Now, it falls off her finger.
KAHN: He tries to water a small olive tree next to the van to remind him of home, but water is scarce. His 14-year-old daughter spends every day in line for a few gallons - not enough for the whole family. UNICEF says children displaced by the war in Gaza get less than half the water needed to survive. His 7-year-old son is dehydrated, and Al Barrawi worries he will die. He says he thinks of death all the time.
AL BARRAWI: (Through interpreter) I only wish that, if I'm to die, I die with all my family. I don't want to die and leave them.
KAHN: Or worse, he says, for him to be the only survivor.
With producer Anas Baba in Gaza, I'm Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Tel Aviv.
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